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Promoting Social Connection and Deepen Relations in Older People: Design of Media Parcels towards facilitating Time-based Media Sharing

Zaine, Isabela, Frohlich, David, Rios da Hora Rodrigues, Kamila, Rodrigues da Cunha, Bruna Carolina, Orlando, Alex Fernando, Fernandes Scalco, Leonardo and Campos Pimentel, Maria Da Graça (2019) Promoting Social Connection and Deepen Relations in Older People: Design of Media Parcels towards facilitating Time-based Media Sharing Journal of Medical Internet Research, 21 (10), e14112.

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Being socially connected is related to well-being, and one way of avoiding social isolation is to deepen existing relationships. Even though existing relationships can be reinforced by regular and meaningful communication, state-of-the-art communication technologies alone do not increase the quality of social connections. Thus, there is a need for the involvement of a trained human facilitator in a network of older adults, preferably for a short period, to promote the deepening of their relationships.


This study aimed to evaluate the hypothesis that a human-facilitated, media-sharing social networking system can improve social connection in a small group of older people, who are more vulnerable to social isolation than most, and deepen their relationships over a period of a few weeks.


We conducted the design and evaluation of Media Parcels, a novel human-facilitated social networking system. Media Parcels is based on the metaphor of a facilitator collecting and delivering parcels in the physical mail. Extending the metaphor, the system supports a facilitator in designing time-based, dialogue requesting parcels from participants that bring out their memories and feelings, in collecting the parcels, wrapping them in annotations that communicate the corresponding requests, and delivering the wrapped parcel to a target person. Qualitative evaluation was carried out in 2 trials with a group of 3 people each, one with family members (children and father; aged 55, 56, and 82 years old) and the other with a group of friends (aged 72, 72, and 74 years old), over 2 weeks. In each trial, data were collected in 3 interviews (pre-, mid-, and posttrial) and via system logging.


Collected data indicate positive social effects for deepening and developing relationships. The parcel metaphor was easily understood and the computational system was readily adopted. Preferences with regard to media production or consumption varied among participants. In the family group, children preferred receiving media parcels (because of their sentimental value) to producing them, whereas the father enjoyed both. In the friendship group, preferences varied: one enjoyed both producing and receiving, while the other two preferred one over the other. In general, participants reported a preference for the production of items of a certain type depending on the associated content. Apart from having a strong engagement with the system, participants reported feeling closer to each other than usual.


For both groups, Media Parcels was effective in promoting media sharing and social connections, resulting in deepening of existing relationships. Its design informs researchers who are attempting to promote social connection in older adults.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Music and Media
Authors :
Zaine, Isabela
Rios da Hora Rodrigues, Kamila
Rodrigues da Cunha, Bruna Carolina
Orlando, Alex Fernando
Fernandes Scalco, Leonardo
Campos Pimentel, Maria Da Graça
Date : October 2019
DOI : 10.2196/14112
Copyright Disclaimer : ©Isabela Zaine, David Mark Frohlich, Kamila Rios Da Hora Rodrigues, Bruna Carolina Rodrigues Cunha, Alex Fernando Orlando, Leonardo Fernandes Scalco, Maria Da Graça Campos Pimentel. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (, 05.10.2019 This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.
Uncontrolled Keywords : Social interaction; Interpersonal relations; Communication; Intervention; Experience sampling; Mobile apps; Photography; Video-audio media; Elderly
Additional Information : IZ was supported by São Paulo Research Foundation FAPESP (GNumbers 2017/09549-6 and 2015/18117-7). This study was also supported by funding from FAPESP (Grant Numbers 2016/00351-6 and 2016/50489-4), Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico Grant Number 312058/2015-2), and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Brazil—Finance Code001.
Depositing User : Diane Maxfield
Date Deposited : 25 Sep 2019 15:56
Last Modified : 18 Oct 2019 12:30

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